What Exactly Are SNS Nails? We Investigate

The manicure trend everyone's talking about

Everyone has that mani-obsessed friend – the one who always has perfect nails, who can educate you on the pros and cons of shellac, gel and acrylic at length, and who’s always the first to know of new nail trends. Naturally, she’s now waxing lyrical about the benefits of SNS nails. But just what is SNS, and is it safe? We spoke to the experts to find out.

What is SNS?
SNS stands for Signature Nail Systems. It’s not nail polish, but nail powder: after a clear gel base coat is applied, you dip your fingertips into a pot of finely milled powder, which sticks to the still-wet base. The process is repeated to build thickness and colour intensity, then buffed to smooth out any bumps and sealed with a glossy top coat. “It’s a longer process, with no LED curing involved,” says Sally Hansen nail expert Alison Bowhill-Hayes.

Why do women love it?

SNS benefits include a long-lasting, ultra-glossy finish. The stuff actually does not chip off, ever, and you only need to remove it when the regrowth gets too obvious.

SNS is hailed as a healthy manicure, as the powder formula contains nail-fortifying calcium and other minerals. “It can be applied to almost any nail, no matter how short,” adds Bowhill-Hayes. “They last well; up to three weeks with no lifting.”

sns nails manicure trend
(Credit: Getty)

RELATED: Tried And Tested: Our Beauty Editor Reviews SNS Nails

Are the SNS colours good?

The SNS nail colours are extensive, although perhaps not as limitless as shellac or gel. “It is hard to gauge how the colour will turn out as it is in a powder form,” points out Bowhill-Hayes. “At least with other nail polishes you can see the polish in the bottle and how that colour will look if applied on the nail.”

Are there any cons?

SNS is removed by soaking your nails in acetone. Like most manicure techniques, the damage is in the removal, not the application (especially if it’s filed off), and acetone is known to weaken and dehydrate both the nail and surrounding skin.

alexa chung nails
(Credit: Getty)

“Much of the promotion in the market is that SNS is ‘healthy’ for your nails and better for them than, say, a gel polish system,” says Monika Carvalho, owner of The Nail Lab. “But SNS is essentially the same as acrylic and over time will damage the natural nail the same way.”

One last tip

Whatever mani method you choose, make sure you have regular breaks to give your nails a chance to breathe. “Do not apply and then two weeks later get them removed and apply again, then stay on this treadmill,” cautions Bowhill-Hayes. “Your nails will become very weak as they need oxygen to stay healthy.”

RELATED: Why This Beauty Editor Secretly Hates Manicures

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